This New Web3 Startup Quietly Raised $10 Million in Stealth

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

This New Web3 Startup Quietly Raised $10 Million in Stealth
Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

Last week, an obscure Venice-based startup disclosed in regulatory filings that it had raised nearly $10 million in funding and is seeking to raise $5 million more. Beyond a scarcely detailed website and several online job postings, little has been publicly disclosed about the company, known as Artema Labs.


And after dot.LA reached out to Artema Labs this week for comment about its newly raised funds, it soon took down its website. The company did not respond to multiple requests to participate in this article.

Here’s what is known about Artema Labs: Based out of a posh residence in Venice, the startup appears to be focused around the blockchain-enabled realm of Web3. Several job listings indicate that the company is working primarily around NFTs and the entertainment sector, such as a project manager role that asks for experience managing clients “especially in the creative and entertainment industries.” There are also a handful of engineering roles revolving around the blockchain and NFT spaces, including a vice president of software engineering.

According to SEC filings and the startup’s now-defunct website, Artema Labs is led by CEO Madhu Vijayan, who founded and leads Los Angeles private equity fund CalibratedGROUP, according to his LinkedIn page. Vijayan also cut his teeth as an artist; served as CEO of a CRM software firm; founded a company that “creat[ed] emerging market strategies for entertainment firms” like Universal Studios and Sony; and consulted for politicians like former Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt.

Joining Vijayan at Artema Labs is Markus Jakobsson, whose LinkedIn page describes him as “chief scientist” at a “company in stealth mode.” Jakobsson brings a background in cybersecurity and previously held positions at TikTok parent company ByteDance, Qualcomm and PayPal. Also in the braintrust are executives Ajay Kapur, an associate provost for creative technologies at the California Institute of the Arts, and David Agnew, an L.A. entertainment lawyer.

While Artema Labs’ designs on Web3 remain unclear, it’s not surprising that the blockchain realm has given rise to yet another venture in L.A.’s startup scene. From investment managers to crypto payments processors to digital collectibles platforms, more local startups than ever are raising money to fund their blockchain-related operations.

Beyond Southern California, Web3 startups are responsible for some of the largest recent venture-backed funding rounds. This week alone saw blockchain platforms Polygon and Alchemy raise $450 million and $200 million, respectively, from major Silicon Valley VC firms like Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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